South Park woman publishes nature photography book
October 16, 2014 12:00 AM
Jeanine Leech of South Park.
By Jill Thurston
When Jeanine Leech’s mom bought a Nikon camera and joined a camera club in 1995, Ms. Leech went along to show her how to use the camera.
“The joke has always been that my mom isn’t technical, so I had to help her learn how to use the camera. That’s how I got back into photography,” Ms. Leech said. A resident of South Park, she has a book “Magic Light and the Dynamic Landscape,” that was published by Amherst Media in July. The book is a tutorial for photographers to capture the beauty of nature.
A graphic designer, Ms. Leech dabbled in photography during high school for her Peters Township yearbook and dreamed of being a sports photographer while watching the Steelers. But she set aside the notion after graduating in 1984 to concentrate on graphic design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Nearly a decade after she graduated from the Art Institute, she joined the Photographic Section of the Pittsburgh Academy of Art and Science, the oldest photography club in the United States, which meets in the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.
“I knew the basics about f-stops and aperture, but I really honed my skills when I met Nancy Rotenberg through the club,” Ms. Leech recalled. Originally from Canada, Mrs. Rotenburg was a professional photographer leading workshops for the camera club.
“She was my mentor and she taught me how to photograph nature,’’ Ms. Leech said.
Ms. Rotenberg died several years ago, and Ms. Leech dedicated her first book to her.
In the book, Ms. Leech leads the reader through various types of lighting occurring naturally throughout the day: the uniqueness of images outlined just before dawn and vivid colors emerging during the sunrise. She calls this light at the “edges” of the day the “magic hour.”
She writes, “Capturing fleeting moments requires symmetry between your vision, the camera and the light,” and she illustrates this with photos of stormy weather passing over mountains, forests and water.
Her book also touches on the use of filters and digital darkroom techniques.
Because photography is her passion and not her primary profession, she’s financed all of her own trips for the photos in her book, which includes scenes from the Adirondack Mountains, Glacier National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains, Colorado and southwestern Pennsylvania.
”I love capturing the moment, traveling and being outside,’’ she said.
She noted that she never lost her desire for sports photography, and 15 of her sports images are now on display throughout the CONSOL Energy Center. She was commissioned in 2010 by the Pittsburgh Penguins and James Gallery Inc. on behalf of the Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh to create the original work.
Her break in sports photography came in 2005 when Matt Polk, the team photographer at the time for the Pittsburgh Penguins, spoke at the photography club and liked her portfolio, she recalled.
“He invited me to be his intern/assistant for two seasons,” Ms. Leech said. The unpaid position was a huge boost for her. In 2009, Icon Sports Media Inc. hired her to be the firm’s lead photographer in Pittsburgh, allowing her sports photos to reach beyond the Pittsburgh market. Finally, she was the photographer on the sidelines. Her sports shots have appeared in publications such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine and USA Hockey.
The opportunity to write the nature photography book presented itself after a representative from Amherst Media saw her nature photographs posted in an online book she self-published on Blurb.com.
She recalled that her book wasn’t quite real to her until she saw it in a bookstore.
“I went to Barnes & Noble, where the book was sitting on a bookshelf … then it was real,” Ms. Leech said.
HOMETOWN: South Park
FAMILY: Single. Father, George Leech; mother, Mary Lou Smith; brothers Ken and Denny Leech
EDUCATION: Art Institute of Pittsburgh
WHAT’S IMPORTANT: “Being true to yourself and living life without regrets.’’
FIRST JOB: Rite Aid Pharmacy
WHEN YOU WERE A KID, YOU WANTED TO BE: ”A rock star.’’
READING MATERIAL ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND: “Photography of the Night Sky”
WHAT'S PLAYING ON YOUR TV: Pittsburgh Pirates
FANTASY CELEBRITY DINNER DATE: Russell Crowe
FANTASTY PARTNER ON “DANCING WITH THE STARS”: Apolo Anton Ohno
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE: Meg Ryan
PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW: ”I learned to ice skate and play hockey at age 36.’’
GUILTY PLEASURE: Ice cream
IF YOU HAD IT TO DO OVER, YOU WOULD: Travel more
FAVORITE SPOT IN THE WORLD: Crested Butte, Colorado
BEST USE OF A $100 GIFT CARD: Camera gear
PROUDEST MOMENT SO FAR: Writing and publishing a book
GOALS: Learn how to do astrophotography
WHAT’S ON YOUR BUCKET LIST: See and photograph the aurora borealis; travel to Australia, Iceland and Alaska
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.